Every year millions of people in the UK experience the discomfort and symptoms of rhinitis. Rhinitis means inflammation of the nose. There are two categories of rhinitis.
- Seasonal allergic rhinitis, otherwise known as hay fever, is when you get symptoms at certain times of year; eg summer time due to grass pollen.
- Perennial rhinitis is when you get symptoms all year round.
The nose acts as a gateway to your lungs so a condition that affects your nose can also affect your lungs. This means that rhinitis (which affects your nose) increases your risk of developing asthma and can trigger asthma symptoms which can result in asthma attacks. If you have asthma and rhinitis it’s very important to understand how to stay on top of both conditions.
Seasonal and perennial rhinitis – what’s the cause?
Rhinitis is mainly caused by allergic reactions to things in our environment called allergens
Seasonal rhinitis (hay fever) is caused by an allergy to pollen and spores. Pollen is the tiny, dust-like particles given off by some trees, grasses, weeds and flowers. Spores are given off by some plants as well as fungi and moulds.
Perennial rhinitis is when inflammation of the nose can occur all year round. This can be caused by an allergy to house-dust mites, furry or feathery animals, certain chemicals, some medicines, moulds and fungi in damp spaces, and very rarely, foods.
If you have an allergy, your body reacts when you come into contact with allergens by producing a chemical called histamine. Air borne allergens (aeroallergens) may get into your eyes, or be breathed in and can irritate the sensitive linings of your eyes, nose, sinuses and throat. These can cause the symptoms of hay fever.
What are the symptoms of rhinitis?
Typical symptoms of both seasonal and perennial rhinitis may include:
- Itchy, blocked or runny nose
- Red, itchy or watery eyes
- Itchy throat, inner ear or mouth
- A loss of concentration and generally feeling unwell
- Disturbed sleep
Some people might get all the symptoms. Others might only get one or two.
The common cold can often be confused with rhinitis because they share a lot of similar symptoms. However, a cold normally lasts for about a week so any symptoms that last for longer may be due to rhinitis.
Allergens can also trigger asthma symptoms: tight chest, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. There’s a very strong link between rhinitis and asthma and asthma attacks. If you have rhinitis symptoms and you have asthma you should talk to your GP or asthma nurse about it as soon as possible. It’s important to treat both conditions and they’ll be able to give you medicines to help.
For more information
Visit the Met Office pollen information web page.